Edmund Pettus Bridge: Historic Structures Report

Selma Bloody Sunday

Junshan Liu is PI on a National Park Service (NPS) African American Civil Rights grant that will fund the production of an Historic Structures Report (HSR) for the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Although the bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013 and photographed for the Historic American Engineering Record, a comprehensive archive of historic documents, site chronology, a full set of measured drawings and 3D digital and physical models have not yet been produced. An HSR is critical because the was deemed functionally obsolete in 2011, and is currently poised for discussions on pedestrianization and expanded interpretive programming. However, due to logistics, maintenance costs, and contested histories, the deterioration or even demolition of the bridge is possible. The bridge itself is relatively intact with respect to both its 1940 commissioning and 1965 period of significance. However, much of the historic fabric in the area south of the bridge along US-20 has been lost or is severely degraded, and has no initiatives set forth at this point in time for preservation, conservation, restoration, or even reconstruction.  Recently, however, the site was among a group of civil rights-era historic resources identified by UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund as endangered due to a lack of active preservation efforts. ​A full HSR is essential for determining a feasible and sustainable path toward preservation and enhanced documentation.

This grant will sponsor measured surveys from analog methods, digital documentation (LiDAR and UAVs), archival research, and field work observations and materials testing, combining to create a comprehensive Historic Structures Report (HSR) for the Edmund Pettus Bridge as well as an accompanying digital archive.

Junshan Liu is Associate Professor of Building Science at Auburn’s McWhorter School of Building Science. Collaborators on the team include Keith Herbert and Elijah Gaddis (History Department), and Danielle Willkens, Assistant Professor of the history and theory of architecture at Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture.